Sunday, January 02, 2011

Ajusshi - Man From Nowhere

Well, if Hell has an alternative name as Nowhere, in that case, everything is in place.
During last Christmas I’ve seen this movie five times. To be honest – because I’m stupid and I can’t count. I thought I would be back sooner to my normal everyday schedule (yes, hours on msn, D-A, Nate, Asiae, why you ask?), but somehow 10 days shrank miraculously in my stupid head to a week. Fine. So I was left only with this one movie, ekhem…
Back to the topic. It’s a good movie. Don’t stone me but I will not use the adjective “great” when talking about it in general. It had great parts, like filming, but somehow, well, I don’t know. I remembered two things while watching this: Kim Namgil-nim’s saying his family was watching Baker King Kim Takgu and loving it, and second – the scene from the movie The Classic – when the young man said that Koreans love sad stories. Ajusshi (I prefer original title than the English version) is a sad movie. It’s a sad action movie to be exact.
Why sad? The protagonist's fate is unclear - ha may be transferred to prison, his military unit may claim him, and some rogue assassin may shoot him.

We start our journey to the dark side of Korea from the police van. In the club, a transaction was taking place. Actually not exactly a transaction, but just a transferring of a bag. Bags in action movies, when we have police officers and bad guys, are always full of things that normal people see only in movies. Big sumo player (nah, joking, he just looked like one) left this bag under the table and “certain” waiter picked it up. Everything was going just fine up until some bling bling dress showed up (a female dancer in the club, don’t throw cans at me, not yet) and gave the man some serious dose of electrons, more than his body could handle, grabbed the bag – and voila! – she knew what she was looking for. Two envelopes with heroin. High with happiness (and not only with that), poor woman never thought she’d rather see a baby with an elastic neck on the ceiling than f*ck with the owners of those packages.

And we have another pair of people, as if taken from a different story, yet dirtied by the surroundings. At first we saw a guy who was buying at the market and a girl who was hiding. He saw her, I saw nothing on those stairs, but then again, I’m not from nowhere, I’m from… nevermind. And this is one clever move by the screenwriter – we are thrown in the middle of their relationship, not the beginning, not any “how this happened” stuff, we see they know each other and live in a strange symbiosis. She has an mp3 player, he pays her to listen to some songs. She likes the sausage, he tricks her to see it and he cooks it for her. I really liked the moment he made the sausage visible so the girl could see it. When I watched it for the first time, I missed the whole concept completely.

But, Somee’s mother (bling bling junkie dancer) thinks the silent, dark man is a child molester and she proposes herself for him, even for sleeping with. (Digression: Who wouldn’t?! I mean, just look at Won Bin! End of the digression.) Yes, so now we know almost everything we need to know to have our sympathies and enemies, to have naughty… I mean naught of empathy for some guys. All we know is: Somee’s mother is a junkie whore, she stole the drugs from two brothers who were dealing with Mr. Oh. Brothers are not that stupid (ok, the younger is, oh damn, he is) and they found out who messed up with them fairly quickly. The younger one, with the assassin working for them, gave the woman a private, tough lesson on barber utensils. Somee came home and had to witness it all, moderately softened by the assassin’s merciful hand on her eyes. She was kidnapped nonetheless.

I don’t want to spoil the fun, because the movie is a fun to watch. I had a really good 2 hours of a nice action movie. Oh, I should mention it earlier, I like violence on screen, I like blood and I like blades. Perhaps this is the reason I prefer swordfight than gunfight. There are guns in this movie, but it’s knives that rule it. This is also what I like in Korean action/gangster movies – they still show a knife-fight (there is a word like that?). Because it takes a lot more skills, courage and risk to fight with blades.
As for the violence – hmm, this is a difficult topic. It was not only violence between fighting men, between officers and gangsters, But it was also the violence in families. Somee’s mother abused her, the girl was always left alone, she was stealing, she was treated badly by teachers, other kids, all because of her mother. Woman even said that they should kill themselves. Oh yes, a great solution for all problems of adults – to kill their kids and then commit suicide. How stupid is that? And no, I don’t buy the excuse – I don’t want to allow my child to suffer even more. If that was the case – use the freaking condom and don’t worry about it in the future. Or, if you already found a way to make a baby before making some brain, don’t impose your incompetence, laziness and sick sense of responsibility over a child. Just kill yourself and make him/her free, big whoop!

And also there was a pure violence. A bloodbath. That’s the way, aha aha, I like it, aha aha^^ I called what I saw in Cha Taeshik: “silent berserk”. He had two sides in him – one benign and caring, and one inhuman. After his wife’s death and his disappearance from the force, those two sides merged in him, he had no need to separate them anymore.

At first he was a typical, mysterious guy in those movies, a lone wolf, the avenger, and so on. Living alone, not talking much, one eye covered with hair, clad in black (but I… uhm.. Let’s say it like this – this ash-colored sweater he had on when Somee was sleeping at his place, showed his body line, no, not an S-line, don’t insult a man, in a way no suit later did. Well, my impression though.), but I was quite surprised they told everything about him. We knew the reason of his withdrawal, we knew why he was so cautious and alert 24/7. And we knew why he somehow was attached to Somee.
It was “redemption through a child”.
He lost his own, he opened a bit only to another rogue, alone and hurt child.
            But this was also this movie’s weak point.
It accented drugs so much, showing it’s no fun. Ok, I got it, drugs are no fun. Drug business was hand in hand with so called “organ harvesting” business. And this I found the creepiest in the whole movie. Organ trade is like a black market. Some people may pay a huge amount of money just to get the organ for the loved ones. Don’t ask don’t tell policy also works in this field. Why to ask questions when we have a kidney for a wife/husband (see how not biased I am?), the truth may not always be some easy-to-accept kind of truth. Jong Suk had a point before his death – people who take homeless, abandoned or runaway kids and shelter them with organ harvesting prospects in minds, think of them as small money factories. They know that when those kids are dead, no one will look for them. But Taeshik had also one point – there is always someone who may look for one of them. By sheer accident, they woke up the walking fury of a man who had nothing to lose, just because they kidnapped a girl who wasn’t totally alone.

So, what’s with that weak point, lady?
It’s the emotional blackmail. I don’t like it in the movies. I don’t like when a movie tells me what should I feel and I don’t like when the movie tries to impose feelings on me. I got the feeling this time. We have a child here, and any crime committed against a child makes bigger impression on everyone. I know it was the main axis of this movie and it was what was about, but still, I had this feeling that movie tried to made my sympathize with Taeshik.
I didn’t. It’s only because Taeshik had Won Bin’s face (and body), and I like the man. But I didn’t like his character. No, it’s wrong. Not even “like” is appropriate here. I couldn’t be totally, wholeheartedly on his side. He was a ruthless killer. He was a mirror reflection of the assassin that was on the brothers’ side. They were virtually twins. There was only one difference between them. Taeshik had Somee, and the little girl was for him the only way to his human side. The other assassin had no one, but it was clear that the girl made the impression on him. Maybe not even the girl herself, but her relationship with Taeshik. This connection between those two made the assassin to commit his first and last (probably, have no idea about him, and he’s a very interesting person) good deed. He killed the guy who was ordered to take the girl’s eyes out. He blew off the tube with the eyes when completely broken Taeshik was about to reach for it. He didn’t shoot him. He was killed in a furious attack, with face that was saying: “I saved your girl. I did.”

            What I liked?
The cold shade of blue in that movie. There was a warm filter and the blue one. But the warm, colorful one was a little bit sickening in the scenes between Somee and her mother, toned down when Somee and Taeshik were on screen, and fairly intense in others, especially in the bloodbath scene.
Scenes were filmed with care, and you can make a snapshot in any moment, and I bet the scene will be perfectly balanced. Technically, except from few blotches of blood – perfect.
The filming. Usually I’m not a big fan of a “from hand” shooting, but here the angles were nice, especially the view from the tyres, and also it made the characters a little bit close. Well, considering almost all of them were psychopaths, not that comforting thought. But this way we were always "with Taeshik", no matter what he did - jumping out of the window, delivering the package, fighting.
I liked how sometimes the music was completely out in some scenes – the crash and discovering Somee’s mother’s body in the trunk, the fights.
I liked the detective and the assassin. The latter was first to know that Taeshik was not a usual guy who would be easy to erase. He was also more conscious than Taeshik. And the detective – well, as every detective, tough guy, obsessed with catching up the criminal, yet not completely blind. My favorite scene with him? The beginning, with bottle in his hand.

What I didn’t like?
As I mentioned before – the imposing of whom I should like and whom I should hate. They made it very clear. Mr. Oh – he’s a bastard, we know, he was into drug trade. Brothers – oh, they were even more evil – they were into drug trade AND organ harvesting business. The younger one had every trait that makes such characters appalling – demoralized, with tattoos, sleazy, cruel, to sum up – he deserved to be killed in a very imaginative way.
But I had problems to be on Taeshik’s side either. I understand his motives, I really do, but he was a killer. The same as every killer. We saw his other side – loving and caring husband and father-to-be, but in the same time it was easy to forget what kind of force he belonged to – the most brutal military force ever put into use. Had he some split personalities? No, it was still the same person – after killing someone he went back to his wife. He had two sides to him, let’s face it. It wasn’t some nice boy from the neighborhood.
One good thing - he never attempted to prove his innocence while being at the police station. He could prove it with ease, but instead he took the matters in his way - that is bursting out from there.

            Round up. Well paced, crafty action movie without much moralisation, but just a hint of it. Nice story of a relationship between man who lost everything and a little girl who has nothing. Btw., I read few comments that this film resembles Leon. No, not at all. First of all, Leon is a movie about pedophile, keke. Second (and this follows the first), the relationship between Taeshik and Somee is completely different, tighter. And also the background for the payback is different. So no, only some ignorant who didn’t see Ajusshi can say that, or someone who likes to take one common motif and build a theory of parallel histories.
And last but not least, Won Bin. Not a cute guy (but the boyish smile is still present^^), but a ruthless killer. Still, looking fabulous. Sadly, he didn’t have the chance to show more of the acting skills, his role was a very physical one. Yet, very, very intense. Comparing to Lee Byunhun in I Saw The Devil, uhmm, actually, comparing is pointless, LBH is just an average actor with much hype around. Let’s hope for the best from Won Bin (especially after what we saw in Mother, uhuhu).

The strong point of this movie comes from Won Bin. At first, you may want to laugh at him, his haircut is so kpop (good he cut it), his way of speaking - typical dark hero. But scars on the knuckles suggest something violent in his past. He's a walking smoldering fury.

 Movie info:
Official Website
Directed by Lee Jeong-beom (이정범)
Screenplay by Lee Jeong-beom (이정범)
Action •Drama
Release date in South Korea : 2010/08/04
And rating on IMDB: 7.9/10
And if you are not sure to watch it or not, trailer:

But you know, I just write cause I like it. You may hate the movie I love and vice versa.